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Volume 18, Number 1
February 11, 2012
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opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: Volume 18; Thug rant; and Arnulfo's bones and Floyd's
Harrington, Annus Horribilis
Waters, Occupy
Thurston, Comparing two Panama Cities
Wiese, The sensei
Inter-American Press Association, Freedom of the press in 2011
Bloice, Obama's ominous arming of despots in the Gulf
Lara, Martinelli lashes out at media owners for reporting about corruption
Frente Amplio por la Democracia, About the election laws
Keller, Antisemites and kindergartens
Shah, Put Baby Doc on trial
Gandásegui, Martinelli and the business dinosaurs
Baker, Budget balancers and global warmers
Valencia, Chávez's illness: is the left all right in Venezuela?
Human Rights Foundation, Three years in jail and $40 million fine for journalist
Bruce, First in the Nation
Payne, Panama president tries to silence the press
Beale, Peace Corps safety measures
Perkins, Policy to kill emerging countries' economies
Jackson, An astounding environmental mockery
Zamora, Military maneuvers in the country without an army
Mast, Amanda
April 10th Movement, Barro Blanco promoters' bid to dispossess a community
Sirias, A hero from the Golden Era
Letters to the editor

An astounding mockery
of Mother Nature
by Eric Jackson

Why is it that I have had a month-and-a-half writer's block about this simple column? Maybe it's because I have different ways of dealing with my mood swings than the ways that Ricardo Martinelli handles his. My initial instinct would be to let loose a torrent of angry, vulgar abuse. Had I done that, people would be able to compare my tone to that of the president's intemperate address to the National Assembly and the Panamanian people. But I write having slept on the subject matter for more than a month, so my anger, unlike Martinelli's, is at least contained.

The Martinelli administration is living in a fantasy bubble, into which it has dragged almost all of our public institutions and about 20 percent of the Panamanian people. Nothing makes it clearer than the mining issue, and after the second major confrontation with the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca about the subject, the Martinelistas' divorce from reality becomes all the more apparent. They may yet be able to marginalize Silvia Carrera and impose their will on her constituents, but they will never recover their lost credibility.

But what set off my rage, and then became so depressing that I didn't want to write about it, was not about Cerro Colorado or the comarca, it was about what the theoretically independent courts and an allegedly autonomous authority did about something far away from the comarca, the Canadian multinational Inmet's mining concession in Colon's Donoso district. (Here they do business as Minera Panama, a local subsidiary, which calls its project the Cobre Panama mine.)

On December 27, the Supreme Court rejected Inmet's lawsuit to strike down the 1997 law which made the area in which the mine is being developed a protected national forest. However, the court did not order the company to cease and desist from its operations. Ignoring the very essence of what a protected area means, it left it to the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) to decide what the company may or may not do.

The following day, ANAM approved Inmet's environmental plan. That is, it approved the deforestation of 22 square miles of jungle, followed by the digging of three huge pits and treatment of the rocks extracted from those pits with caustic chemicals to dissolve the copper and molybdenum in them so that those raw materials may be shipped off and turned into manufactured goods somewhere else.

No harm, no foul, ANAM ruled. It was shocking if not unexpected. It was an astounding mockery of both Mother Nature and the intelligence of the Panamanian people.

Let us not blame the high court. Let us not blame the miserable second-rate functionary who heads ANAM. On second thought, let's do hold them accountable, but with the understanding that they were following the orders of one Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. In the future, as the magistrates and ANAM director are run out of public life in disgrace, they ought to be allowed at least that mitigating factor in their defense.

But they will tell us that this means jobs. They accuse the environmentalists who object to a 22-square-mile hole in the Meso-American Bilological Corridor and the local residents who object to the poisoning of the streams and shorelines where they fish of being so unpatriotic as to oppose national development and jobs. And if you look at Inmet's website, the company does say that the mine will create 176 jobs.

The destruction, deception and demagoguery here are breathtaking. And for what?

Assuming that free elections are allowed in 2014 and that current trends hold, it will all be for naught. Cambio Democratico may rig the courts to allow Martinelli to seek another term or may run somebody else, either Guillermo Ferrufino or another member of the president's inner circle, but if there is an honest vote count any of those possibilities would lose very badly. The Panameñistas will run Juan Carlos Varela, whose former alliance with Martinelli has put a permanent stain on his ambitions for the future. The front runner now and likely winner in the 2014 presidential race is Juan Carlos Navarro, who is against mining. The campaign will be mostly about Martinelli's totalitarian assault on all institutions in Panamanian society, but the most prominent policy issue will be mining, which Navarro opposes.

Much of Inmet's destruction is already done and by the 2014 elections almost all of the deforestation will have been accomplished. However, the actual production of copper and molybdenum for export is not scheduled to begin until 2015. The next administration is likely to flat-out prohibit it. It is likely that Inmet is going to get an international lawsuit against Panama rather than a producing mine out of this process.







    

Also in this section:
Editorials: Volume 18; Thug rant; and Arnulfo's bones and Floyd's
Harrington, Annus Horribilis
Waters, Occupy
Thurston, Comparing two Panama Cities
Wiese, The sensei
Inter-American Press Association, Freedom of the press in 2011
Bloice, Obama's ominous arming of despots in the Gulf
Lara, Martinelli lashes out at media owners for reporting about corruption
Frente Amplio por la Democracia, About the election laws
Keller, Antisemites and kindergartens
Shah, Put Baby Doc on trial
Gandásegui, Martinelli and the business dinosaurs
Baker, Budget balancers and global warmers
Valencia, Chávez's illness: is the left all right in Venezuela?
Human Rights Foundation, Three years in jail and $40 million fine for journalist
Bruce, First in the Nation
Payne, Panama president tries to silence the press
Beale, Peace Corps safety measures
Perkins, Policy to kill emerging countries' economies
Jackson, An astounding environmental mockery
Zamora, Military maneuvers in the country without an army
Mast, Amanda
April 10th Movement, Barro Blanco promoters' bid to dispossess a community
Sirias, A hero from the Golden Era
Letters to the editor


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© 2012 by Eric Jackson
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